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sometimes when i make a goal of passing my level 4 online and liberty, i become too direct line in my thinking, which in turn pushes my horse away.  when i am being direct line i am more predator than partner towards my horse.  this is something that i work very hard on within myself.

and sometimes it means that i actually have to let those goals slide a bit while i focus on my relationship.  these past few months i have made my focus playing with billy until he is rideable… AND THEN GETTING ON AND RIDING HIM.  during this time our sessions were playful, fun and completely connected.

the last two sessions were about testing where we are in the program and our relationship went down the tubes.  i find it interesting that i have a hard time balancing these two things.  that is where i need help with my emotional fitness.

so i picked up a book that i’ve had for ages, but never read.  or even cracked open.  i bought this book and then promptly put it in my book shelf, never to look at it again.

these things come to us when we need them most.

a few profound things i read in “Connecting with Horses” by, Margrit Coates:

Through connecting with the horse we not only blend, but we are healed at our core.

Connecting with horses is letting go…. Sometimes the connection happens without effort; at other times it’s something that we yearn for, seemingly elusive and tentative.

… sometimes you do not need to know what you have learned, just that you have.

Even though they may no longer work for us, horses work on and with us.

All horses are healers in their own individual way, and all horses want to help us to heal.

there is no end to our experiences with horses, only continual beginnings.

i’m constantly amazed at how the universe works.  amazing.

The struggles of helping my horse feel confident.
My Journey

I have been struggling with my horsemanship journey lately. For the last several months I have noticed a change in Billy. My normally happy, funny, joyful horse has become more and more introverted, stressed and emotional. As we try to advance our horsemanship, by climbing up through the levels, Billy has shown more and more stress related behavior issues; nervous mouth, lowering his head all the way to the ground, shaking his head, grinding his teeth, all of a sudden being very very itchy, so much so that he can’t pay attention to me anymore, not looking at me, pushing me, etc. etc.

I am quite certain that all of these behaviors have been building for some time.

I am a visual learner. I love to read all the information, search out the videos and then go try the challenge. What I am noticing about this way of learning is that I can’t FEEL what is going on in the videos and there are no FEELINGS in what I’m reading. I can implement the actions, but I think I may losing the feel behind them. Billy will do everything I ask, but it’s done more by rote than because he understands WHY or even feels engaged.

I’m not saying that he is never engaged because sometimes he is. He used to be even more. Then I got unconfident in myself which I think causes him to feel unconfident in me and now we are both an emotional wreck.

I want to be very clear that this is not because we do Parelli. So many people don’t like Parelli for one reason or another and are quick to blame the program and not the person trying to implement it. This is entirely ME. I have done my best, but my best is not good enough.

I often feel a bit alone out here on my own. I do a lot of filming trying to better myself, but lately I have felt that Billy and I are stagnant. There is no movement in our horsemanship.  Meanwhile Billy is getting more and more unconfident around me, then I am getting more unconfident and I can see this is an unhealthy cycle to be in.

So I stepped out of my comfort zone and went searching for some hands on, non Parelli help.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t plan on leaving Parelli connect. I just think I need something else, something that Parelli is not providing for me right now. I need a different plan to help me get into Billy’s head and find some answers.

A few of the games have escalated Billy’s emotional upset. He has become more reactive and at the same time shut down. It’s an interesting combination and one that I feel is quite volatile. Maybe this is what a couple of the Parelli professionals saw this summer.  They both felt that I wasn’t capable of helping Billy through it. But I am my only option as I can not afford to send Billy away. So I have to figure it out. If they are not able to hold my hand a bit through this then I will have to find help elsewhere.

This whole thing is WAY out of my comfort range. I have struggled with this since August.  I’ve gone back and forth, I’ve looked and looked for answers on my own. I’ve come up short. I think the hands on help is necessary right now to help both Billy and I through this rough spot.

I’m also very tired right now. My horse has become work and I haven’t been enjoying myself when I’m with him for a couple of months now. Not every session mind you. Some of our sessions have been really awesome. I just need that to happen more often than not.

I’m not sure what is going to happen with the non Parelli instructor. I’m not even sure if we will go work with her again, though I learned a lot in our session and I felt she was very helpful. I’m just not sure if it’s the right fit yet.

I do know that I am continuing to search out answers. I have lots of questions and with some time I will find the answers. In the mean time Billy and I will go back to square one on a few things and I plan on slowing things way down. I definitely want to take the time it takes so it takes less time later on.

Our Horses are our Best Teachers
Our Horses are our Best Teachers

Interestingly enough this quote has been in the last three books I’ve read.

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” ~Teddy Roosevelt

The last book was “Believe” by Buck Brannaman. There were so very many little gems in this book. I can’t possibly include them all here, but I can encourage you to pick up this book and read it. I have also read “The Faraway Horses” but must admit that I enjoyed “Believe” so much more. It comes from the heart and soul.

It seems to me that horses bring us to the very depth of our heart and soul. Searching for the best we can be. Even if it’s buried under years of confusion, anger, sadness, guilt. The horse will bring either the best or the worst of us out in any given session. The horsemen/women are the people who take a step back and realize what exactly it is in themselves that is causing any strife or resistance in their horse.

When we approach our horse with false happiness, false intentions, fake courage, they can see what is actually going on inside us. We can not fool them. They will push every single button they can to cause us to see the truth and then accept/admit what is going on. Once we can admit that we are feeling angry, sad, scared, things will begin to change between our horse and ourselves. It’s amazing how the relationship will evolve and begin to have wings at this point.

Honesty makes all the difference to our horses. Those of us that continue to enter that arena and face who we really are, while our horses effectively mirror us, are the ones that will ultimately have the lives we wish for. We will truly understand love, how it feels to give it and receive it from one that can not lie or deceive but can only live in the moment.

Our horses are our best teachers.

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apparently i did not write my last post very well and it caused some confusion.  i will not enclose billy in a small pen and make him run as fast as he can.  as a parelli student i know that this is a useless way to help my horse through an emotional situation.  i’ve witnessed several horses “round penned” until sweat was coming out of their ears and they could barely catch their breathe.  this was not what i was writing about.

when i said i would have billy in a fenced in, safe area, what i meant was i would close the gates that lead out to the two different 10 acre pastures and just play with him in the playground area that i have set up.  this area, including our yard around the house, is 3 acres.  we know where all the ditches, sagebrush and slippery spots are in this area so i can safely send him out on a circle at a canter or gallop and not worry about him stumbling in a hole or slipping on the wet ground.

my plan so far has been to send him out in a circle, then ask for the canter, then i walk.  i walk all around so he doesn’t have to canter on a small circle.  i have him a 22′ line so i can reach him if he needs a little help cantering, but with all the walking it’s very much like having him on the 45′ line.  he has to navigate a few things like sagebrush, the blue barrels, the little shallow ditch that runs through our play area and so on.  having these things to do also helps his brain get to his feet faster and more effectively.

once he can lower his head and breathe out, blowing out his nose, then i immediately disengage and bring him in for some friendly game and a few cookies.  i’ve done this the last two play sessions and in the second session he relaxed much faster.  when going to the left he was able to lower his head and blow out after just one canter lap.  going to the right took a little longer.  i sent him out and brought him in a few times today and he stayed in that relaxed frame the entire time he cantered.

now sometimes everything completely falls apart on the third day… but only tomorrow will tell that!  and i must watch myself as well.  as buck brannaman says, “treat him like the horse you want him to be, not like he is”… or was yesterday!  and our horse is our mirror.  if i’m not relaxed and confident it is likely that billy will not be relaxed or confident either.  so i must remember to breathe as well.

thank you to all that posted in my comments yesterday!  your ideas are wonderful and i plan to put each one of them in action.  i’m game to try anything to help billy through this.

just know that i will not just send him out to blindly gallop wildly in a small enclosed area.  there is nothing for him to learn in that scenario.  i am all about helping my horse, holding his hand and offering him the best deal i can while we work through some of these sticky spots in our journey.  after all that is what parelli is all about!

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billy has started to get extremely emotional when i ask for the canter on the circle.  he used to just not offer it, now he’ll pick it up but quickly goes RBE and tries to run away.  a few times he’s ripped the rope right out of my hands and RACED away, tail flagging.

this new part of our journey kept me awake last night.  as i mulled it over, i started to break it down for myself and billy.  we have been playing with him picking up the canter and i’ve had to get REALLY interesting to achieve that.  then i started to wonder if he has always been emotional about the canter and that’s why he wouldn’t pick it up before.  once his feet start to move he seems to get more and more worried until he is galloping madly about with me standing in the power stance in the middle trying to hang on.

i think to help him with this i’m going to have to ask for the canter, then ask for the gallop and just keep him there, in a fenced in, safe area where he can’t get away.  i think i’m going to have to ask him to go closer and stay longer in that uncomfortable place.  it’s uncomfortable for me too so this should be interesting.  i hate to see him scared or worried, but i won’t be able to ride that canter/gallop unless i help him (and at the same time help myself) become more confident about moving his feet more.

i’m surprised at this turn of events because he can trot all day long.  when he got scared he used to disengage and come right to me, but the last week or so he has started to turn all the way away from me and just take off.  how interesting!

i was awake trying to think back, to see if i could remember anything that happened in our sessions that caused him to feel so stressed.  i can’t remember anything.  so i will just tackle this new problem head on and see what we can accomplish.

parelli gives us so many wonderful techniques, ideas, support and knowledge that if we can break it down in our heads, we can solve the problem.  all we need is time and courage and lot of determination and we can make a breakthrough.

billy and i have worked through many issues as they have popped up.  i have faith that we can work through this one as well.

but it will take courage (on both our parts) and determination.